Let’s Talk Romance and the Genre

What do I write again?

The lines between definitions seem to blur when you get into category romance.  This is also true for other sub-genres, such as Commercial fiction vs. category fiction vs. literary, etc, etc.  Since I write romance this is where I intend to focus.

If you go to Romance Writers of America you will find a small subset of romance categories.  One sub-genre they do not mention is chick-lit.  Chick-lit is somewhat controversial.  Is it more romance driven or would it fit more into literary fiction?  It seems like most women would agree it is more Romance but with sass and drive.

I go back and forth whether my books are chick-lit or contemporary.  Contemporary romance is very broad.  Everything that is set after ’45  would fit this category.  I can’t go wrong there, but I would rather market my book properly.

Let’s go over the romance sub-genres.Romance and it's many faces

From the Romance Writers of America sub-genres are: Contemporary Series Romance, Contemporary-Single Title Romance, Historical, Inspiration, Paranormal, Regency, Romantic suspense and Young Adult.


  • Contemporary Series Romance Usually anything set in modern day but in Romance the specific date is after the war times, post 1945. These novels focus on a romantic relationship.
  • Contemporary-Single Title Romance Same as above except this is a single title, one book.
  • Historical Romance
    If you have contemporary then you have an opposite.  That is historical.  In Romance that means anything before 1945.  There is no specific region needed for historical.
  • Inspirational Romance
    Sometimes this is called Christian Romance (thank you Amazon).  They are one in the same.  This sub-genre has spiritual or religious elements that play a major role in the romance. Granted I have read some books where I wouldn’t call the spiritual elements “major”.
  • Paranormal Romance These novels are set in a alternate world. That can be future or  fantasy, and paranormal elements are a major portion of the story.
  • Regency Romance
    Think British.  These stories have the majority of the plot taking place in Britain during the regency period.
  • Romantic Suspense
    If your mystery or thriller has a lot of romance, this might be your genre.  The plot is filled with not only suspense, mystery, or thrills, but also has a romance that the story couldn’t survive without.
  • Young Adult Romance Romance geared towards young adults.  This is a tricky thing to define.  These days some romance in a YA can be a little more adult that was accepted a few years back.

Other genres that the RWA does not mention are Gothic and Erotic.

  • Gothic usually brings to mind creepy visions of the past.  Castles, grand homes, you know the creepy old Victorian.  These stories usually have thriller elements, suspense and maybe other elements of the other genres.  It’s sort of a soup.
  • Erotic Romance focuses more on the sensuality of the story rather then the love.  A happy ending, a lasting relationship, those are not necessary for an Erotic novel although usually they squeak in.
  • Chick – Lit usually is defined by being a light-heated usually witty take on life.  These stories deal with real women’s issues generally in the corporate world, on weight issues, dating disasters etc. It’s the humor that makes it different from mainstream women’s usually.  These books normally have elements of romance but don’t always, which is why I would guess RWA does not recognize it. To see more

The biggest thing to remember is if the romance could be removed without ruining the story, most likely you are literary or some other genre.  The romance  in a romance genre carries the story no matter how many subplots there are.

I will work on a list of authors as examples for each genre next time.  Does this cover it or did I miss the boat?


5 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Romance and the Genre

  1. kellyhashway says:

    Don’t forget steampunk and dystopian.

    My books are paranormal but some call them thrillers or even horror. Really they have paranormal, romance, mild horror, mythology, and fantasy all rolled into one.

    • M. Ziegler says:

      I forgot about these! Thanks. I will add an additional post. I can’t wait to read your books that are coming out. They are very much something I know I will enjoy. I hope you don’t mind but I am A) adding your name as someone to remind me that I forgot about these ’emerging’ genres with romantic elements and B ) Maybe I should add your book as an example of Paranormal, YA, Romance?

  2. carol hedges says:

    OMG! This struck a chord! I often complain that I am the only writer who writes ‘outside’ of a genre. I write um.. YA Chicklit Crime Fiction. Nope, it doesn’t exist! So how do you fit your stuff into your genre? Or why should we have to?? (PS new book is: Victorian-lite Gothic Crime Fiction. Nah, not a category either!! Good luck!

    • M. Ziegler says:

      I think a lot of writers fall into this! I have a friend who recently self-published. Her biggest reason was she couldn’t figure out how to fit into the market, which hurt her getting an agent. For traditional publishing find the main element of your story and go with that. Who knew writing was so hard?

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